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Articles:

1.Teardowns of Apple iPhone 3GS /EETimes

2.iPhone 3G S tear- 3x speed boost /Computerworld

3.iPhone 3G S, Pre and G1 head-to-head benchmarks: iPhone wins/ Engadget

4.Apple iPhone 3GS leapfrogs Palm Pre / EETimes

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1. Teardowns of Apple iPhone 3GS

 


Silicon integration suggests cost savings for Apple
 
SAN JOSE, Calif. — Teardowns of the third generation Apple iPhone reveal a more integrated—and probably lower cost--handset thanks in part to new design wins for Broadcom and Toshiba. That's caused one analyst to quip the 'S' in the iPhone 3GS may stand for savings.

Elpida also made its first entry into the iPhone with the 3GS, with DRAM die appearing in two chip stacks. Elpida and Toshiba have supplanted Samsung as a supplier of flash and DRAM in the handset.

The iPhone 3GS arrived at Apple retail stories Friday morning (June 19) to lighter than previous sales.

"The biggest surprise in the iPhone 3GS is there are no Marvell Wi-Fi or CSR Bluetooth chips" that appeared in earlier iPhones, said Young Choi, senior manager of engineering at Semiconductor Insights who is doing a teardown of both the handset and major chips in it.

Apple opted for a Broadcom BCM4325 integrated 802.11abg and Bluetooth part already used in the iPod Touch, likely saving space and cost. The iPod Touch "now appears to be a leading springboard for new suppliers and integration in subsequent iPhone generations," said David Carey, president of teardown specialist Portelligent (Austin).

 


Click on image to enlarge.

Analysts are still cranking the numbers on Apple's costs of producing the iPhone 3GS. "It's lower than the first-generation iPhone 3G," due to reuse of many existing components and declines in memory prices, said Carey.

A video of Teardown TV's teardown of the iPhone 3GS is here. Teardown TV, Portelligent and Semiconductor Insights are part of TechInsights, the publisher of EE Times.

Toshiba helped Apple squeeze more storage in a tight space by delivering a 16 Gbyte NAND flash device that stacks four 32 Gbit die in a single package. The 32 Gbyte version of the phone is expected to pack eight of the dice in a similar package.

Choi said the Toshiba part was the first four-level stack of a 32 Gbit flash die he has seen to date. Intel and Micron released some of the first 32 Gbit parts in January using a 34 nm process. The 210-square mm Toshiba die was probably made in the company's 43nm process using its existing all-bit-line architecture announced about 18 months ago.

An Intel/Numonyx device new to the iPhone provides memory for the baseband processor. Choi said he believes it includes a 16 Mbyte NOR die and a 512 Mbit Elpida DRAM die, although he has yet to conduct detailed chip-level analysis on the part.

One of the biggest mysteries of the 3GS is the applications processor widely expected to be an upgraded version of the 90nm Samsung part in the first two generations of the iPhone. As with the earlier designs, the package markings on the chip do not correlate directly to anything in the Samsung product portfolio.


Click on image to enlarge.

The package bears both Apple and ARM logos along with numbering suggesting a Samsung memory multichip package, Choi said. He plans to conduct a detailed cross-section analysis of the chip, measuring transistor sizes and other key metrics.

Many observers speculated the part includes a 600 MHz ARM Cortex A8 and PowerVR SGX graphics core from Imagination Technologies in an SoC made in a 65nm process. Such a chip would be on par with the OMAP 3430 from Texas Instruments used in the Palm Pre.

"That's based on speculation and press releases," said Choi. "We haven't yet identified any functional blocks to determine what [the Samsung part] actually is," he added.

Indeed, even the markings on the die of the applications processor (pictured below) do not describe the heritage of the part.

 


Click on image to enlarge.

It's also possible the design is a custom ASIC built for Apple. The company has been working for more than a year to build up a strong internal semiconductor team to define proprietary silicon for its systems.

Carey said the apps processor includes two 128 Mbit Elpida Mobile DDR SDRAMs in the package. That gives the part 32 Mbytes of main memory, and another design win for Elpida in the high profile handset.

"The use of a new Samsung apps processor and an Omnivision autofocus 3 Mpixel camera certainly bumps costs up ,but these improvements along with a few incremental bells and whistles would seem to be offset by declines elsewhere in the system," said Carey.

Another surprise is the new handset apparently still uses the Infineon PMB8878 also known as the XGold 608 baseband processor in previous designs, according to Carey of Portelligent. Apple doubled to 7.2 Mbits/second the download speed supported on the iPhone 3GS, but that speed grade was apparently already supported on what is clearly the old Infineon chip based on die markings.

 

 

 

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2. iPhone 3G S tear-down reveals 3x speed boost

 

Gregg Keizer
19.06.2009 kl 17:50 | IDG News Service

The iPhone 3G S' hardware, including a faster microprocessor and a faster graphics processor than in last year's model, supports Apple's claims that the new device is two to three times faster overall, a tear-down by Rapid Repair shows.

The iPhone 3G S' hardware, including a faster microprocessor and a faster graphics processor than those in last year's model, supports Apple's claims that the new device is two to three times faster overall, a just-completed tear-down shows.

According to Aaron Vronko, the CEO of Michigan-based Rapid Repair, the iPhone 3G S sports an ARM Cortex A8 microprocessor running at 600 MHz. Last year's iPhone 3G, by comparison, sports an ARM 11 running at 412 MHz.

"One of the two most significant changes in the iPhone 3G S was to what's called the Mobile Application Processor, the Samsung 'system-on-a-chip'," said Vronko, who flew to France to be one of the first to purchase the new iPhone. Vronko then took the phone to BricoMac, a Paris repair company, to disassemble the device.

Vronko has posted a step-by-step tear-down, complete with photos, to the Rapid Repair site. As its name suggests, Rapid Repair is a repair shop and parts supplier for iPods, iPhones, Zunes and other consumer electronics.

The processor in the Samsung package boasts a new and improved ARM architecture, said Vronko, that in and of itself is almost twice as efficient at the same clock speeds as what Apple stuck in the iPhone 3G. "It's the latest ARM design," said Vronko, "running here at 600MHz. But with the faster clock speed, 50% or so faster than last year, the result is that Apple's upgraded the iPhone 3G S 2.5 to 3 times in processing capability."

When Apple unveiled the iPhone 3G S last week, the company bragged about its performance, saying that the "S" stood for "speed," and that the new model was "up to 2x faster and more responsive than iPhone 3G."

Vronko's tear-down not only bears that out, but shows that Apple could have amped up the iPhone 3G S even more. "The new ARM architecture supports designs up to 833MHz," said Vronko, then cited three reasons why he thinks Apple didn't push the envelope further.

"First, it didn't need to, since the 2.5 to 3 times faster processing is more than enough to handle current apps," Vronko said. "Second, the more you amp it up, the more heat, and the current design lacks any efficient means of heat diffusion. Third, upping the clock speed uses more power."

Because of the heat issue, Vronko believes that Apple has reached the performance limit with its current iPhone design. "I don't think they'll increase [performance] much until another design comes out," he said.

The other major change to the iPhone with the 3G S is a more capable graphics processor. While last year's GPU (graphics processor unit) was the Imagination Technologies' PowerVR MBX-Lite, this time Apple used that company's PowerVR SGX. The biggest boon, said Vronko: 3D graphics rendering.

"Not only is this a faster GPU, but there's hardware in the GPU that the old one didn't have," said Vronko, "including 720p video native support, so they can support 3D rendering. The old GPU could do some basic rendering, but now you have a much more robust rendering capability that can support a real mobile gaming platform." It also means that the iPhone 3G S could be the gateway to a high-definition media platform in the near future. The improved graphics and video may come into play later this year when Apple refreshes the iPod Touch, which has used a nearly-identical design. Apple's marketing has aggressively pitched the iPod Touch as a game-playing device, for example.

"I think they absolutely will stick to the same design with the Touch," said Vronko, who expects Apple to update that iPod in September, traditionally the month Apple upgrades the line, or maybe even sooner.

Apple also bumped up the system memory in the iPhone 3G S, from the 128MB of the iPhone 3G to 256MB. "That means they really can consider doing some multitasking capability," said Vronko, talking about the background processing that the iPhone current lacks. The iPhone has been dinged since it debuted for its inability to run more than one application at a time. Apple, which has said it based its decision on power consumption issues, has bent a bit by adding what it calls "push notification" to the iPhone 3.0 software.

"I think it's more on the hardware side that Apple's decided to not do multitasking," said Vronko, "not the battery. I don't think running two applications [at the same time] would really make much of a difference in the battery life."

The rest of the iPhone 3G S is nearly identical to last year's iPhone 3G, Vronko noted. "The modules were in the same places and attached the same way, with a couple of exceptions, so it's clear that Apple is happy with the design," said Vronko.

That also means that Apple's profit margin is likely even higher on the new model, since it's probably already amortized the design costs. "The cost per unit is lower than it's ever been," said Vronko, who acknowledged that he hasn't yet done a cost-of-goods analysis of the parts uncovered by his tear-down. "But I'm convinced that Apple is making money hand over fist on these."

It's also likely that the iPhone 3G S is the last in the original design line. "I don't see anything too revolutionary here," said Vronko. "They'll need a totally fresh design going forward," he added, "if they want to move forward."

As to that, what, if anything, did he see from the tear-down that might hint at Apple's future plans for, say, a "tweener" device between the $299 iPhone and the $999 MacBook? Not much, said Vronko. "There's not a lot here that would suggest the current design could support something like an ultra-small PC or netbook."

Apple has repeatedly said it's not interested in the netbook category, but most analysts have come around to the idea that the company must, and will, play in that market, perhaps with a tablet-like device that's akin to an iPod Touch "on steroids," as Ezra Gottheil, an analyst at Technology Business Research has put it.

Vronko plans to continue to pull apart the iPhone 3G S to ferret out more information. "I still haven't found what powers the digital compass," he said.

Rapid Repair has also posted a comparison chart (below) that details the internals of the iPhone 3G S, the first-generation iPhone, 2008's iPhone 3G and Palm's new Pre smartphone.

iPhone 3G S Comparison Chart

 


 

x iPhone 2G iPhone 3G iPhone 3G S Palm Pre
CPU Samsung S3C6400  Samsung S3C6400 Samsung S5PC100 Texas Instruments OMAP 3430
x ARM 11 412 MHz, PowerVR MBX-Lite graphics ARM 11 412 MHz, PowerVR MBX-Lite graphics ARM Cortex A8 600 MHz, PowerVR SGX graphics ARM Cortex A8 600MHZ, PowerVR SGX 530 (GPU), 430MHz C64x, DSP and ISP (Image Signal Processor)
Baseband Processor x Infineon 208 (PMB 8877) Updating soon Qualcomm MSM6801A
Storage Samsung NAND Internal 4/8/16 GB Toshiba NAND Internal 8/16 GB Internal 16/32 GB Internal 8 GB
Memory 128 MB RAM Samsung 128 MB DDR RAM 256 MB RAM 256MB DDR2 
LCD 3.5-inch 480-by-320-pixel at 163 ppi Multi-Touch display 3.5-inch 480-by-320-pixel at 163 ppi Multi-Touch display 3.5-inch 480-by-320-pixel at 163 ppi Multi-Touch display 3.1-inch 480-by-320-pixel Multi-Touch display
Battery Talk/Video/Web: Talk/Video/Web: Talk/Video/Web: Talk
x 8/7/6 hours 5/7/5 hours 5/10/9 hours 5 Hours
x Audio: 24 hours Audio: 24 hours Audio: 30 hours x
Connectivity GSM/EDGE (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz) UMTS/HSDPA (850, 1900, 2100 MHz) UMTS/HSDPA (850, 1900, 2100 MHz) UMTS/HSDPA (1900, 2100 MHz)
x Wi-Fi (802.11b/g) GSM/EDGE (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz) GSM/EDGE (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz) GSM/EDGE (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz)
x Bluetooth 2.0 + EDR Wi-Fi (802.11b/g) Wi-Fi (802.11b/g) Wi-Fi (802.11b/g)
x x Bluetooth 2.0 + EDR Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR
Size 115 x 61 x 11.6 mm, 135 Grams 115.5 x 62.1 x 12.3 mm, 133 Grams 115.5 x 62.1 x 12.3 mm, 135 Grams 100.5 x 59.5 x 16.95, 135 Grams
Camera 2 Megapixels 2 Megapixels 3 Megapixels x
x x x x x
Battery stats assume usage of 3G network, times vary with 2G network use for cellular and wifi for internet x x

 

Rapid Repair Chart

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3. iPhone 3G S, Pre and G1 head-to-head benchmarks: iPhone wins

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

Now that we know the iPhone 3G S and the Palm Pre share extremely similar 65nm ARM Cortex A8-based internals, it's time to break out the stopwatches and see how these blood brothers stack up. Anandtech has the first head-to-head tests we've seen, and it seems like the 3G S has the slight edge, loading a series of web pages 11 percent faster and a whopping 54 percent faster than the iPhone 3G. Not too shabby, but not exactly a thorough drubbing either -- especially when you consider webOS is still 1.0 and there's likely some optimizations to come. Full results at the read link.

Update:
Anandtech had some uncharacteristically bad math going on -- the 3G S is actually 21 percent faster than the Pre, which is quite notable considering the similar hardware and WebKit-based browsers.

 

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4. Apple iPhone 3GS leapfrogs Palm Pre


Palm handset beat 8Gb iPhone in cost of goods
 
SAN JOSE, Calif. — Apple Inc. leapfrogged the Palm Pre with the announcement of its iPhone 3GS Monday (June 8) and undercut the Pre by dropping existing iPhone prices to $99. Palm, however, undercut Apple slightly in the cost of hardware in handsets with 8 Gbytes flash.

The new iPhone 3GS uses an upgraded application processor, baseband and more NAND flash memory to deliver new media capabilities at $199 for a 16 Gbyte model. That's the same price—figuring in a $100 rebate--as the Pre released Saturday (June 6) with 8 Gbytes flash.

Teardown specialist Portelligent (Austin) estimates the cost of goods of the Pre at just under $160. That compared favorably with the existing iPhone 3G with 8 Gbytes flash that Portelligent pegged at $173.

By comparison the HTC Dream—the first phone to use the Google Android software—cost $143 in hardware to build but had less than 256 Mbytes of flash, according to Portelligent, a division of TechInsights which publishes EE Times.

Details of the Pre teardown including photographs of its internals were released on June 7.

Initial reports said lines of consumers looking to buy the Pre at retail shops over the weekend were significantly lower than those for the first two generations of iPhones.

The new iPhone 3GS now supports HSDPA networks with downloads of speeds up to 7.2 Mbits/second, implying a new baseband processor. It also sports new video, graphics and audio capabilities, implying a significantly upgraded applications processor, said Jeff Brown, principal analyst at Portelligent.

The 3GS can record video at 30 frames/second at VGA resolution. Its camera has been upgraded to an autofocus version supporting 3 Mpixel resolutions.

The camera also has built in video editing capabilities and a feature that allows the camera to focus on whatever spot a user touches on the phone's LCD. The phone also supports limited voice recognition for hands-free operation.

"All these features will require a significantly more powerful apps processor," said Brown.

The new iPhones use an upgraded version of the Apple operating system announced earlier this year. Apple said it has put more than 50,000 applications for the iPhone in its App Store.

A 32 Gbyte iPhone 3GS costs $299. The new phones will be available June 19, but the lowered price on existing phones begins immediately.

Separately, Apple announced a new version of its computer operating system that has expanded support for multi-threading. The Snow Leopard software will be available as an upgrade in September for $29.

 

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